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Published: June 10th 2019
The bus leaving Bratislava didn't arrived for the scheduled 4pm departure. The Austrian girl we were sitting, waiting with said she had got a text saying that there was a 90 minute delay so we sat under the shelter of the outdoor bus bay surrounded by lightning and thunder storms waiting for its arrival.
It arrived at 5pm and after the poor, exhausted driver checked everyone's passports and loaded their luggage we ended up leaving at 5.20pm, only 10 minutes before the next bus service was scheduled to leave for Budapest, making it even more frustrating for the driver in explaining to most of the people waiting that it wasn't their bus. I felt for him.
Christina, the Austrian girl who lived in Budapest, helped us get off at an earlier stop in Budapest called Kelenfold and showed us how to buy the Metro ticket and within 15 minutes we were at the door of our Airbnb at the original time that I had estimated that we would arrive, so thanks to her the delay had not affected our arrival time at all.
We exited the Metro at Fovam Tér station and popped up directly in front of the Freedom Bridge.
As soon as I saw the Danube River at twilight I felt that a week here might not be enough and I was mentally already preparing my next visit. I got that little high that I remember getting when we first arrived in Prague 4 years before. This high wavered over the week as I got to see different sides of Budapest.
Our Airbnb was in an enviable location. Right opposite the Grand Market Hall , facing a new, modern Meininger Backpackers and a pretty green square. Our room was perfect and our host a young German girl who was kind and helpful but kept her distance, giving us space, which was appreciated.
I was eager to go for a short walk just to get a feel for our surroundings but I literally had to drag Tomas out. He was resistant and exhausted.
We walked for a half hour and unfortunately an unexpected downpour caught us just before we got back.
Tomas stayed in most of our first 2 days as he developed a flu and I ventured out exploring. I was impressed at myself at the distance I managed to cover. I walked the length
of 3 bridges on the Pest side, where we were staying and then crossed the bridge, climbed up the steps beside the funicular on the Buda side and explored all the castles, churches and grand buildings on the Castle Hill. The same extravagance that Vienna displayed was evident here as it was the same Habsberg family that had ordered much of the extravagance in the 15th century when Vienna ruled the Austrian- Hungarian Empire.
I met an elderly Irish Couple with whom I chatted and strolled together with. They has 1 day left out of 4 and shared with me what they had covered so far.
Thunder and lightening were spectacularly threatening without rain for a few hours and I had a thrilling view of the black clouds from the elevation of the castle. Instead of taking shelter I attempted to walk back to our accommodation only to get caught at the Freedom Bridge, 10 mins from home by a thorough soaking my umbrella did little to protect me from. More wet socks......
I took shelter at the Grand Market Hall oposite from where we were staying prepared myself by picking out all the treats I was going
to try over the next few days.
I went home for the remainder of the evening to shelter from the weather.
We woke the next morning to read about a Korean tour boat that had tragically sunk near the Parliament building following a collision in the late evening during the storm. Seven people were dead and 20 missing. A few days later we watched a navy boat anchored at the sight supposedly recovering the wreckage. We didn't stay for the whole process.
It wasn't until our third day that Tomas managed to emerge for some sightseeing. I was thankful that I had booked a week here. It gave us a chance to rest, recover, shelter from bad weather and not feel pressure of missing anything. Day 2 had been a day of constant heavy rain and day 3 was sun, so he had timed his "man flu" well from my perspective.
We walked very slowly over the course of the day past restaurants and shops that were mainly for the tourist's benefit only a few streets back from the Danube on the Pest side. Much of what I had already seen but we went further and made
it to the impressive Parliament building, which was designed by the same architect who designed the British parliament building, so there were obvious similarities.
We had park bench and ice cream stops regularly along the way passing Elizabeth Park with the Budapest Eye and St Stephen's Basilica. No buildings in Budapest Centre are permitted to be taller than Parliament and St Stephen's Basilica which are both of the same height. This makes these 2 prominent buildings look deservingly majestic when observing from the Palace Hill but a few, what I would call "Soviet mistakes" did not have rules that stopped them from being built in an almost overcrowded centre where too many buildings had been squeezed in distracting from the full magnitude of some of the more beautiful buildings.
On day 4, our Saturday I dragged Tomas back to Buda, where I had already been to see the Palace district and the stunning views over Pest. We slowly strolled to Margit Bridge and Margit Island. Another perfect day. Despite all the bad weather we have had we have been very fortunate at the right times.
Margit Island has been my favorite place in Budapest so far. Being a sunny weekend
it was active and crowded with relaxed people and dogs: picnicking, playing games, cycling, making bubbles for the kids and walking. Beautifully maintained gardens and recreational areas that span the entire 2.5km length of the island where the Danube River splits in 2 embracing the island.
Dancing fountains on the hour: changing from a classical dancing concert one hour to a modern production the next and there was even a hard rock production. Rose gardens, a concert stadium and extensive areas of outdoor thermal pools.
It was a very memorable, perfect spring day where everyone appeared to be happy.
We didn't return to our room until about 10pm, stopping at a Greek restaurant for dinner on the way back where we lingered as we enjoyed people watching.
It was my turn to get sick Sunday so I spent most of the day in the room going out for a late lunch at a cheap Chinese Restaurant at Kalvin Tér, which was the next subway stop along from where we lived. We sat outside and a huge street March went by as we sat. It took over an hour for the parade to pass. We couldn't work out what the
protest was for but lucky for them the thunderstorms for the day had passed and they were having a sunny, pleasant walk.
I pushed myself to keep walking and we then discovered the ruin bars in the Jewish quarter. An arcade style passage with lines of alternative bars and markets. A very classy, attractive creation that was the revival of a building built in the late 1800s for that purpose but had become neglected until recently.
The rain eased over the week and we had some bright days with only the occasional thunder storms which passed quickly. Monday evening was our last day in Budapest. We had taken an easy day returning to the Chinese restaurant for lunch, wandering the Great Market Hall and sitting in the park outside our apartment in the sun.
The evening was memorable.
Just before sunset we crossed the Freedom Bridge and climbed to the top of the Citadel Lookout over the city. Once we got to the top we encountered many other tourists but the twilight views were breathtaking and the bright red sky we were blessed with added to the treat.
We had a lovely walk to the bus station
before leaving for Zagreb. We got to see a greener more residential side to the city and met a young French girl along the way who also happened to be on our bus. She said she was thankful for our company as she had just left a group of friends she had been hitchhiking with from Paris and was now traveling to Sarejevo via Zagreb alone. I told her how I was inwardly petrified as I traveled Europe alone when I was 20 so I understood the feeling.
There is a grittiness to Budapest. It is not polished like, for example, Vienna but it has a youthful, active vibe. The food was disappointing for me as it was meat based and not as healthy nor creative as other European cities we have visited this trip and it was disappointingly expensive in the centre but once we ventured out we found more exciting options and prices.
Over our week in Budapest my opinion of the city wavered up and down but my final verdict on the day we checked out and made our way to the bus station was that I wasn't quite ready to leave and it had
taken a while (and probably some sunshine) before this city truly grabbed a hold of me.
More Photos follow. ....
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